Dr. Shelia Nash-Stevenson, an electronics engineer at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., is going back to school. But this time, she's the teacher, not the student.
She is one of five NASA employees participating this year in the NASA Administrator's Fellowship Program -- an exchange program for NASA employees and faculty of minority colleges and universities. Nash-Stevenson returned this fall to Alabama A&M University in Huntsville -- her alma mater -- as a physics professor with real-world experience to share with her students.
"I'm really enjoying teaching," said Nash-Stevenson. "It's an opportunity to show young people that science is fun and encourage them to pursue careers in science."
But that's only part of Nash-Stevenson's lesson plan. The real message she hopes to convey to her students is that they can do anything -- be anything -- they want. "They can do whatever they put their minds to," she said. "I want them to really believe that and aim for the top."
Nash-Stevenson, the only female African-American in Alabama to earn a doctorate degree in physics, has a good footing from which to share that message with young people. "I tell my students that if I can do it, they can too." She credits excellent teachers with her success and hopes to have the same influence on her students. "I had teachers who really cared and encouraged me to do well," said Nash-Stevenson. "Also, my teachers expected me to do well. When you have people who expect things from you, you try to live up to those expectations."
Nash-Stevenson says she's never been one to back away from a challenge, which is why she decided to participate in the fellowship program. "I'm always looking for challenges and opportunities that will provide me with more experience and help me do my job better," she said.
The NASA Administrator's Fellowship Program is a professional development program for NASA employees and faculty of minority institutions. NASA employees work at a minority school helping in whatever capacity they are needed -- teaching, conducting research or assisting with administrative functions -- while minority faculty conduct research at NASA centers.
"The knowledge gained by the participants helps the minority institutions better understand the roles and missions of the agency and enables NASA to learn more about how minority institutions can assist in accomplishing these roles and missions," said Charles Scales, director of Marshall's Equal Employment Opportunity Office.
The program also includes workshops, tours of NASA centers and a trip to Kennedy Space Center in Florida to view a Space Shuttle launch. "We were there for the STS-95 launch," said Nash-Stevenson. "It was great to share in the excitement of John Glenn's return to space."
The NASA Administrator's Fellowship Program is administered by the National Research Council in Washington, D.C., for NASA's Equal Employment Opportunity Office.
Note to Editors: Nov. 16-21 is American Education Week. Marshall Space Flight
Center offers a variety of pre-college and university programs to promote
excellence in education. For more information on Marshall's education programs,
or for photos or video supporting this news release, call Nancy Robinson of the
Marshall Media Relations Office at 256-544-6524, or visit Marshall's News
Center on the Web at: http://www.